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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

438                The Loom of Language
school syllabus Missionaries alert to the advantages of the Cku-Ym~
Tzu-Mu, as it is called, have used it in adult education They claim
that Chinese men and women who had never been able to read or
write their own names mastered the use of it after 3-6 weeks of tuition
One common objection to reform of Chinese writing is the plea that
it would cut off China from her literary past The truth is that contact
with the classics through the medium of script has been the prerogative
of a very small class for whom a classical education has been the
master key to a successful career in the service of the government
The Chinese masses who toil for a handful of rice cannot lose what
they have never possessed
Another objection is less easy to refute As yet, China has no
common spoken language which everybody everywhere understands
The only language common to North and South is the written language,
in which literate people of Peking or Canton, Foochow and Shanghai
can read the same notices at the railway stations or the same advertise-
ments by the roadside The fact that they can do so depends upon the
fact that the written language is not based directly on the diverse
sounds they utter when they read them aloud Happily the northern
speech is gaining ground, and a common Chinese is taking shape, as
a common English took shape in the fourteenth century, and as the
dialect of Pans became the language of France.
The disabilities arising from the existence of the homophones
extends beyond the boundaries of the Indo-Chinese group. Through-
out its history Japan has continually borrowed Chinese words. At one
time this chiefly affected discussion of religious, artistic, and philosophic
topics Of late years the range of the Chinese loan-words has broadened,
because the Japanese sometimes build up technical terms from Chinese
as we build them from Greek roots Thus electricity is DEN-KI
(light spirit) The Japanese vocabulary is now supercharged with
monosyllabic sounds which mean many different things When the
Kana or syllabic writing (p. 67) was new, Japanese writers would use
it exclusively without recourse to Chinese characters as such Gradually
the habit of introducing the ideogram gained ground owing to the
influence of Chinese models The result is that modern Japanese is a
mixture of two syllabic scripts and a formidable battery of Chinese
characters The syllable signs represent the sound-values of the affixes
and particles, the ideograms are used for the core of an inflected word.
Thus the Japanese pupil has to learn the two syllabaries (Hiragana
and Katakana) together with about 1,500 Chinese characters Educated